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12th March, 2017

Horta, Azores

The first few days at sea after Barbados were mainly in north easterly winds coming from a high pressure system to the north of us, so those wishing to complete their seven laps (to the mile) on the top deck had to battle the elements somewhat. Gradually the high pressure overtook us and we found ourselves in calmer seas.

The island of Faial was clearly visible in the early morning twilight and, despite it being a Sunday, the Horta pilot was out on station in good time to meet us. The weather was ideal, little wind and the sun dawning over the peak of the magnificent dormant volcano of Pico to the east. There are few cruise ships that can actually berth in Horta, in fact at 200 meters in length we are probably the largest and even then our stern was level with the end of the breakwater (great shame they originally built it with a kink in the middle). The enthusiastic pilot was adamant I should borrow his car so that I could take my wife for a drive around the island.  Very kind I thought, but perhaps less than wise as I had visions of trying to explain to my lords and masters the reason for either getting totally lost or ‘bending’ a local official’s vehicle.

Instead we took a stroll after crew drill, along the promenade that skirts the small bay, the town looking quite charming in the morning sunlight, white painted buildings and terracotta roofs gradually rising up towards the green slopes above. All the streets are cobbled and the pavements have that typical Portuguese black stone inlaid with geometric patterns, except on the promenade where the patterns are of lighthouses and anchors. Everywhere was so clean and tidy, even in the public gardens where every leaf seemed to be in place, all very charming.

There were tours of the island that included gardens, the lava flows near the Capelinhos Volcano and the small interior villages of Ribeira Funda and Norte Pequeno. The fittest of the Saganauts went for a trek around the Caldeira do Faial, the island’s huge volcanic crater that is a mile wide and half a mile deep. One tour went off by ferry to the island of Pico four miles away, those folks weren’t back until well after six, our original scheduled sailing time. Needless to say we waited of course, but I did make a hasty getaway once they were back, just ten minutes between last line to full away on the penultimate leg of what has been a fantastic cruise.

Captain Philip Rentell

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